Jam 14. 1868 -- Referred to the Committee on Patents and ordered to be printed.

United States Patent Office
Washington, D.C., January 14, 1868

SIR: I have the honor to transmit herewith the annual report of this office for the year 1867, to be laid before Congress.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Commissioner of Patents

Hon. Schuyler Colfax
Speaker of the House or Representatives


United States Patent Office
January 14, 1868

SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report on the business of this office during the year 1867.

The receipts and expenditures of the office for the year, and the condition of the patent fund at its close, are shown by the following statements:

                            No. 1.

Number of applications for patents during the year        21,276

Number of patents issued, including reissues and designs  13,015

Number of caveats filed during the year                    3,597

Number of applications for extension of patents              106

Number of patents extended                                    95

Number of patents expired                                  1,005

    Of the patents granted, there were to --

Citizens of the United States                             12,651

Subjects of Great Britain                                    191

Subjects of the French empire                                 80

Subjects of other foreign governments                         93

                            No. 2. 

    Statement of money received during the year

On applications for patents, reissues, appeals, etc   $597,205.75

For copies and for recording assignments                49,376.17




                            No. 3.

    Statement of expenditures from the patent fund

For salaries (including the extra 20 per cent)        $156,546.50

Contingent expenses, miscellaneous                     260,812.85

Permanent improvements in the model room, library, 

    draughtsman's room, and examiners's rooms           46,301.98

Temporary clerks, (including the 20 per cent)          155,339.91

Withdrawals                                                200.00

Refunding money paid by mistake                          1,085.80

Judges in appeal cases                                     261.25

To this add the following items not heretofore 

    paid from the patent fund, viz:

For illustrations for report                            16,819.60

For expenses of copyrights                               1,895.43


     Total                                            $639,263.32


                              No. 4.

Amount to the credit of the patent fund 

    January 1, 1867                                   $264,125.88

Amount of receipts during the year                     646,581.92


     Total                                             910,707.80

From which deduct for expenditures                     639,263.32


Leaving a balance to the credit of the patent fund

    January 1, 1868                                   $271,444.48


Table exhibiting the business of the office for 31 years ending 

December 31, 1867

Years Applications Caveats Patents     Cash          Cash

         Filed      Filed  Issued     Received      Received

1837                           435    $29,289.08    $33,506.98

1838                           520     42,123.54     37,402.10

1839                           425     37,260.00     34,543.51

1840       765        228      473     38,056.51     39,020.67

1841       847        312      495     40,413.01     52,666.87

1842       761        391      517     36,505.68     31,241.48

1843       819        315      531     35,315.81     30,766.96

1844     1,045        380      502     42,509.26     36,244.73

1845     1,246        452      502     51,076.14     39,395.65

1846     1,272        448      619     50,264.16     46,158.71

1847     1,531        553      572     63,111.19     41,878.35

1848     1,628        607      660     67,576.69     58,905.84

1849     1,955        595    1,070     80,752.78     77,716.44

1850     2,193        602      995     86,927.05     80,100.95

1851     2,258        760      869     95,738.61     86,916.93

1852     2,639        996    1,020    112,656.34     95,916.91

1853     2,673        901      958    121,527.45    132,869.83

1854     3,324        868    1,902    163,789.84    167,146.32

1855     4,435        906    2,024    216,459.35    179,540.33

1856     4,960      1,024    2,502    192,588.02    199,931.02

1857     4,771      1,010    2,910    196,132.01    211,582.09

1858     5,364        943    3,710    203,716.16    193,193.74

1859     6,225      1,097    4,538    245,942.15    210,278.41

1860     7,653      1,084    4,819    256,352.59    252.820.80

1861     4,643        700    3,340    137,354.44    221,491.91

1862     5,038        824    3,521    215,754.99    182,810.39

1863     6,014        787    4,170    195,593.29    189,414.14

1864     6,972      1,063    5,020    240,919.98    229,868.00

1865    10,664      1,937    6,616    348,791.84    274,199.34

1866    15,269      2,723    9,450    495,665.38    361,724.28

1867    21,276      3,597   13,015    646,581.92    639,263.32

Valuable reports of sections have been received from the officers in charge relating to the subjects coming under their cognizance; their accompanying exhibits show that in each department the number of applications has increased, and the character of the inventions proves that the inventive faculty is still alive and usefully employed. The reports, however, generally agree in stating that, with some exceptions, the improvements are mainly in detail, perfecting and adapting what may be considered substantially as existing contrivances and processes.

Changes in the classification and in the alignment of cases having been lately made, a tabular account of the rate of increase of work in the different classes cannot be given satisfactorily. The purpose of the change, so far as it affects subjects, has been to secure more homogeneity in the classes, and to allot more systematically the floating cases, whose distribution has previously been rather arbitrary than consistent. Another incentive to reorganization in this particular has been the increase in the number of examiners and assistants, which is now one-fourth larger than at the date of my last annual report.

The new classification is nearly completed, and will shortly be printed. The number of classes has risen from 22 to 36, a number of subjects being recognized individually which were formerly merged with others under a more generic title. Among these are builders' hardware, felting, illumination, paper and sewing machines, to each of which subjects so much attention has been directed by inventors that a division became a necessity to secure a proper apportionment of work among the corps of examiners.

The American system, as it may be fairly called, has proved itself to be well adapted to carry out the purpose of the law and the clause in the Constitution under which, in the interest of science and the useful arts, Congress has power to secure to inventors, for limited times, the exclusive rights to their discoveries. The office now has a corps of experts to whom applications for patents are assigned for examination, who are intimately acquainted with the details of their respective classes, and whose judgment is worth to an inventor, in an average case, many times the cost of making the application for a patent.

It is believed that the value of the system, great as it is admitted to be, is not adequately understood, and to some the thorough acquaintance of an examiner with his class is simply regarded as a possible obstacle in the way of obtaining a patent. Such an apprehension cannot be felt by one who truly values the system, as, for instance, a bona fide inventor who has unwittingly followed in a path previously travelled by another; to him, though disappointed, the truth had far better come in this way than after expense has been incurred in operating under a patent whose worthlessness is only made apparent when the invention proves itself valuable and provokes litigation.

The student is well aware that the English practice of granting patents was originally a system of monopoly, extending to such things as tanning, the sale of salt in a given district, the importation of certain articles, and similar exclusive powers which proved vexatious exactions to the public.

The act of Parliament to discourage monopolies, passed some two centuries since, recites the legitimate subjects for such grants, and the wisdom of the conclusion then arrived at has not since been successfully called in question.

The advance made by the American system upon the practice which followed the legislation of the Parliament of King James consists in giving an intelligent examination to each application instead of granting a patent as a matter of course, and remitting the patentee to the public and the courts, when a few minutes examination by an expert would have determined to the inventor's ultimate satisfaction, though present chagrin, perhaps, that the invention was worthless on the ground of want of novelty or its inherent radical faults.

Viewing the office as a self-sustaining bureau under the control of the government, the accompanying exhibit is a cause for congratulation to all concerned: the inventors whose genius and industry have supported, and the legislators who have wisely recognized the rights of the inventors and the interests of the public, which are identical.

A glance at the tabular statement of the office business for a series of years shows that the constant increase in the number of applications has not been attended by a proportionate increase in the expenses of the office; this is true even of this year, although over $100,000 has been expended, as shown in the financial statement, for permanent improvements and other objects out of the ordinary course. The machinery is working with less friction and loss; economy and system have been equally studied, and while details may yet be amended to complete the symmetry of the organization, the office is deservedly popular and respected as an American institution, the legitimate exponent of the useful arts, whose progress it was designed to promote.

The following table shows the average cost of each examination for a series of years, the calculation being based upon the number of applications and the gross expenditure of the office in each year:

1840   $51.00

1841    62.18

1842    41,05

1843    37.55

1844    34.68

1845    31.62

1846    36.29

1847    27.35

1848    36.18

1849    39.75

1850    36.52

1851    38.49

1852    36.34

1853    49.71

1854    50.28

1855    40.48

1856    40.31

1857    44.35

1958    36.01

1959    33.78

1860    33.04

1861    47.49

1862    36.28

1863    31.49

1864    32.97

1865    25.72

1866    23.69

1867    30.04

The expenditures in 1867 for 20 per cent extra salaries, (according to act of Congress,) permanent improvements, illustrations for report and copyright expenses (see financial statement No. 3) divided among the applications of the year, renders the average nearly $5 higher than it would otherwise appear.

The increase in the clerical force, both expert and routine, and the multiplication of the office records, drawings, and books of reference, has not been accompanied by an adequate extension of rooms and facilities for work. The urgent pressure in the examiner's department has been somewhat relieved by the assignment of additional rooms, but the employees in other sections are suffering from lack of space wherein to arrange and execute their work. In fact, the public passages and rooms cut off from them are now used to afford accommodation, incomplete as it is, for those employees for whom no rooms can be found.

The librarian again calls my attention to the inadequacy of the room for the proper display and the convenient handling of the books. I have nothing to add to my report of last year on this subject, except that the necessity for more room is every year more apparent, and the limitation more irksome as the books become more closely crowded and the space available for their consultation is diminished.

The space and facilities for the arrangement of the caveats are altogether inadequate and unsuitable. It has been my desire to isolate them in a manner consistent with their official character, but want of room has precluded the perfecting of any suitable arrangement therefor.

The great assemblage of drawings of patented and rejected applications occupies much room, but needs more. A very thorough style of improvement in the substitution of sliding and tilting drawers for the ordinary portfolios, has made their handling and consultation much more convenient and expeditious. They, however, cannot be kept within the present bounds, and the constant augmentation aggravates the inconvenience.

The drawings now number over 100,000, and are becoming torn and soiled by the constant but legitimate wear to which they are exposed. Photography seems to offer the only means for renewing them. For some time past I have had it in contemplation to have photographic copies of uniform size made from the current issues and the drawings of former patents, so as to furnish each examiner a copy of all the drawings appertaining to his class, enabling him to consult them without going to the draughtsman's room, where the space is insufficient for the purpose. This would much facilitate the examination of applications, which becomes a heavier task as the drawings accumulate. A set of the drawings might be bound and placed in the library for public inspection, and copies furnished to other public institutions which might be disposed to order them. Copies of the drawings might thus be furnished at a reasonable price and afford a revenue to the office.

If this plan were adopted, applications might be filed with but a single drawing, instead of two, as is the present practice, and a facsimile of the drawing of record, in most cases of even size with the face of the patent, might be attached thereto.

It has been my purpose to commence by photographing each week the current issues and several hundreds of the back issues, so as gradually to accumulate a full copy of the record, and where a drawing may be lost to take a photographic view of the model, which might stand in its place. The copies thus made would be of even size and smaller than the average of the originals, which would enable them to be placed in compact form and greatly to economize the room occupied by them.

The printing of the specifications was commenced November 20, 1866, and the size of the patents was reduced from 15 by 20 to 10 by 15 inches. The letters patent are thus of a more convenient size for all purposes. A number of copies of each are struck off while the type is set. One copy is attached to the face of the letters patent, of which it forms the "accompanying specification;" one is bound with its fellows in consecutive order to form a book of records; two are sent to the commissioners of English patents, as a slight, though utterly inadequate, return for the magnificent series of English patents which have been and continue to be furnished gratis to us by them as they are issued.

Printed copies are now furnished to all who order them at one-half the former price for the manuscript, and at a profit to the office about equal to the loss on each under the former practice, which was about four cents per hundred words for each copy.

The condensation of the matter, incident to printing, gives compactness to the record, secures exact correspondence between the original and the record, and is a safeguard against change in either.

The time will soon arrive in which it will be prudent to dispose of all models of rejected applications; the amount of room they take can be much better occupied. The model saloon in the west wing of the office is now almost entirely devoted to them, and will soon be required for the display of models of patented inventions. The office will remain in possession of the files and drawings in each rejected case, which will be sufficient for its purpose in preserving the record.

The business of the office is now reported by the examiners of classes as being up to date, so that applications are examined without delay, which is much more satisfactory to all parties than formerly, when it was weeks, and in many cases months, in arrears. This is in the face of the fact that the business of the office is rapidly increasing, as is shown in the exhibit appended, the number of applications being three times the number received in 1864.

All of which is most respectfully submitted.


<< Return to Patent History Materials Index